The death of pitching ace Jose Fernandez in 2016 triggered a series of costly roster decisions that the Marlins’ new owners are having to contend with now. There is no shortage of ‘what ifs’ with how it all played out. But this much is clear: according to sources with knowledge of internal discussions at the time, a number of players with prohibitive salaries wouldn’t be on the Marlins now if previous owner Jeffrey Loria had listened to the advice of his top baseball people back then. Absent a pitching ace in the wake of the Fernandez boating tragedy, the sentiment among many in baseball operations was that the Marlins would struggle to compete in 2017 and that a rebuild was the best path forward. Instead, Loria dismissed the idea, opting to add Major League talent — rather than subtract — in what would be his final year as owner. As a result, the Marlins are saddled with a handful of expensive contracts that are either difficult, or impossible, to unload. “The mandate was to win,” said one source privy to the process. And because of that mandate, the Marlins signed third baseman Martin Prado to a $40 million contract extension, signed starting pitcher Edinson Volquez to a $22 million deal, signed free agent relievers Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, and traded top pitching prospect Luis Castillo for Dan Straily. Despite trading Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Marcelo Ozuna and Christian Yelich this past winter, the Marlins are still projected to start the season with a total payroll of about $95 million — the third-highest Opening Day payroll in franchise history.